The No. 12 Auburn gymnastics team will try to send its four seniors out with a win in their last meet in Auburn Arena when the Tigers host Air Force Academy to close the regular season on Friday.
The Tigers four seniors —Abby Milliet, Samantha Cerio, Taylor Krippner and A'Miracal Phillips all "jumped on board" when they were recruited to Auburn to help build the program into something special, said head coach Jeff Graba.
"They've done a great job for us," he said. "It’s just a lot of pride to see they’ve risen to the occasion and brought this program to place that we didn’t think that we could actually be at when we were recruiting."
The Tigers rose to No. 12 in the rankings by upping their regional qualifying score to 196.670 with a season-best 196.775 road score against Alabama in the Elevate meet last weekend. Air Force is currently ranked No. 52 with an RQS of 194.075.
The Elevate meet was the first time this season that Graba felt like the team competed with a practice mentality, an approach he'd like to see repeated on Friday.
"They’re really good when they’re focused on themselves and they’re treating it like a practice because we’re a tremendous practice team. We haven’t shown that in meets very often," Graba said. "They detached from it from it being a high-level competition and just tried to get back into what they practice every day. The challenge this Friday is we’ve played to our competition’s level too many times this year, and we challenged them yesterday in our team meeting to rise to the occasion that you’re competing against the best team in the country, and that’s us. Can they do that? That’s going to be the goal on Friday."
The Tigers have competed away from the friendly confines of Auburn Arena for five of the last six meets, with the last home meet coming in mid-February.
Closing the regular season at home will be a benefit for the gymnasts, who need a break, Graba said.
"We’re exhausted; we’re beat up," said Graba, who added that there is also a drawback to school being out for Spring Break.
"I think the home environment is actually harder now. I’m assuming that we’re not going to have as many students as we normally do, and without them there, I think it will be harder than a road game. I think it’s going to be a great challenge this Friday, and it will be good challenge for our fans that do show up to be as loud and try to overcome the lack of students."
Auburn and Air Force will meet at 7 p.m. Friday, with the matchup being carried on SEC+.